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retirement savings

The Retirement Answer

Although I will admit that the title of this post is a bit glamorous, I wanted to share the simplicity of the message. Typically, every morning we will sit down to eat breakfast. Meals at our house are generally jovial, with discussions ranging from which animal would win in a fight to how my kids will spend their day. A few mornings ago, however, my oldest asked me a rather interesting question. Knowing what I do for a living she asked, “Daddy, what do you have to do to retire?” My immediate response was, “That’s a great question!” At age 7, my heart swelled that she was already thinking about retirement. Before I could give an answer she quickly quipped, “Wait. I know. You have to save enough money so that one day you can retire.” I was speechless. Pretty profound for a 7-year-old. Finally, I replied, “That’s exactly what […]

Rollover Risk

The idea of an IRA rollover, or a rollover IRA, isn’t necessarily a cosmic mystery – this happens all the time.  You leave your job, and you rollover your 401(k) to an IRA.  No problem, right?  Unfortunately, there often are problems with the process of moving funds from one account to another – because there are a couple of very restrictive rules regarding how this process can and cannot be done.  It’s not terribly complex, but you’d be surprised how easily these rules can trip you up. Rollover Risk Let’s start with a few definitions: A Rollover is when you take a distribution from one qualified plan or IRA custodian, in the form of a check made out to you, and then you re-deposit that check into another qualified plan or IRA account (at a different custodian). A Trustee-to-Trustee Transfer (TTT), even though it is often referred to as a […]

Multiple Income Streams

This post is primarily geared toward younger individuals just starting out after college or from graduate school. However, the information can be used by anyone looking to boost income in order to increase retirement savings, pay off debt earlier or simply to put them in a better position financially. In financial planning we often talk about risk management as one of the bricks to the foundation of any solid financial plan. Generally, when we say risk management we think of auto, home, life, disability and other insurance coverage in addition to an emergency fund. Another area of “insurance” would be creating additional or multiple income streams as a hedge against losing an income source due to downsizing, termination, etc. If none of the aforementioned negative events occurs, then the extra income can be used to bolster retirement savings, reduce debt, or save extra for college. The point is that if […]

The Third Most Important Factor to Investing Success

Previously I wrote about the Most Important Factor and the Second Most Important Factor to Investing Success. Continuing this streak I’ll give you the third most important factor to investing success: Leave it alone. To recap: The most important factor is to continuously save and add to your nest egg over your career; the second factor is allocation – make sure you’re investing in a diversified allocation that will grow over time. The third most important factor to investing success: Once you’ve started investing, leave it alone. Resist the temptation to sell off the component of your allocation plan that’s lagging; the reason you have a diversified allocation is so that some pieces will lag while others flourish, and vice-versa. Reallocate your funds from time to time (once a year at most) to match your allocation plan, but that’s all the fussing you should do with your investments. Leave it […]

How to Pay Off Students Loans and Save for Retirement

Very often in my classes I get asked the question “What should I do first, pay off student loans or save for retirement?” My goal is to give some perspective on approaching these two very important issues. Generally, holding student loans and making the minimum payments can lead to an unnecessary amount of interest being paid. For example, if an individual has a student loan at 6%, then that loan is earning 6% but for the lender not for the student. Many individuals find themselves wanting to pay off their student loans as quickly as possible. On the other hand, recent college graduates are also faced with the decision to save for retirement.  Many of them have heard that it is wise to start saving when they are young in order to let compounding work its magic. However, many individuals are confused as to which situation they should take care […]

5 Secrets About Your 401k Plan

Many folks have a 401k plan – it’s the most common sort of retirement savings vehicle that employers offer these days. But there are things about your 401k plan that you probably don’t know – and these secrets can be important to know! The 401k plan is, for many, the only retirement savings you’ll have when you reach your golden years. Used properly, with steady contributions over time, a 401k plan can generate a much-needed addition to your Social Security benefits. But you have to make contributions to the 401k plan for it to work, and invest those contributions wisely. So how much do you know about your 401k plan? Below are 5 secrets that you probably don’t know about your 401k plan. Check with your 401k plan administrator to see if these provisions are available – some plans are more restrictive than others. Secrets You Don’t Know About Your […]

Maintaining Confidence in an Uncertain World

All around us, every day, we see signs of an unstable financial world. The stock market has been all over the place, instability continues in the Middle East (like it will ever change?); at home we’re confronted by a presidential election that offers little choice other than to hold your nose and vote for the one that you believe is likely to do the least damage. Add to this the rising cost of “getting by” and there’s little wonder many folks are very concerned  and have little confidence about the future. What Can You Do? I don’t suggest hiding under your bed – this has never worked for me, and sometimes you find things there that you would rather not! On the other hand, there are few things that you can do to help get through this uncertainty, and maybe you’ll decide that it’s not so scary after all. For […]

Retirement Income Requirement

You know how important it is to plan for your retirement, but how do you get started? One of the first steps should be to come up with an estimate of how much income you’ll need in order to fund your retirement. Easy to say, not so easy to do! Retirement planning is not an exact science. Your specific needs will depend on your goals, lifestyle, age, and many other factors. However, by doing a little homework, you’ll be well on your way to planning for a comfortable retirement. Start With Your Current Income A rule of thumb suggests that you’ll need about 70 percent of your current annual income in retirement. This can be a good starting point, but will that figure work for you? It really all depends on how close you are to retiring, as well as what you’re planning to do while retired. If you’re young […]

Beyond 401(k) and IRA

You’re contributing as much as you’re allowed to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. If your income allows it, you’re also contributing the maximum annual amount to your Roth or traditional IRA. But you still want to set aside more money beyond 401(k) and IRA, to make sure your retirement is everything you hoped for. What options do you have? Here are some things to consider… Before moving beyond – are you really maxing our your 401(k) and IRA? IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s have some real advantages when it comes to saving for your retirement. So, before you go any further, make sure you’re really contributing all you can. In 2015, most individuals can contribute up to $18,000 to a 401(k) plan, and up to $5,500 to a traditional or Roth IRA. If you’re age 50 or better, though, you can make up to an additional […]

Am I Saving Too Much?

This post is in response to a question an individual had for me when I was meeting with her a few months ago. The question she had for me and the title of the post was if she was saving too much money. The reason she asked is that after a conversation with friends of hers, they had collectively told her that she was saving too much money for retirement. Currently, this 25 year old was saving 26% of her income for retirement! My verbal response was a firm, “Well done!” My internal response was, “Get some new friends.” Her friends were trying to convince her that 10% was more than enough to save for retirement at such a young age. While 10% is a decent amount to put away, 26% is even better. In addition, this young lady was already used to saving 26% of her income. It wasn’t […]

401(k) Mistakes (also applies to other Retirement Plans!)

These days you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to planning for your retirement. Granted, many state and local governments have a pension plan, but beyond that, precious few employers provide a pension these days. Typically retirement benefits only include a 401(k) or other deferred retirement plan, which means it’s up to you! For the purpose of brevity, I’ll refer to 401(k) plans throughout this article; please understand that most of the information applies to 403(b) plans, 401(a) plans, and 457 plans as well as Keogh, SIMPLE, and SEP IRA plans. For most of us, the 401(k) is the default account that must take on the role that the pension plan did for previous generations. Paying attention to and avoiding the following mistakes can help you to ensure that you have a financially-secure future. #1 – Choosing Not to Participate It’s amazing how many folks, young or old, don’t participate in their […]

IRAs: Roth or Traditional?

The question comes up pretty often: when contributing to an IRA, should you choose the Roth or Traditional? I often approach this question in general with my recommended “Order of Contributions”: Contribute enough to your employer-provided retirement plan to get the company matching funds. So if your employer matches, for example, 50% of your first 5% of contributions to the plan, you should at least contribute 5% of your income to the plan in order to receive the matching funds. Maximize your contribution to a Roth IRA. For 2015 that is $5,500, or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older. Continue increasing your contribution to your employer-provided plan up to the annual maximum. So if you have more capacity to save after you’ve put 5% into your employer plan to get the matching dollars, and you’ve also contributed $5,500 (or $6,500) to your Roth IRA, you should increase the amount going into […]

Have You Saved Enough for Retirement?

One of the reasons that retirement funding is a mystery to most folks is the uncertainty that comes with trying to determine how much is enough – enough savings set aside so that we don’t run out of money during retirement. The answer to this question begins with an understanding of your day-to-day living expenses, and how those expenses may change in retirement. This is a simple enough process, although it does take some effort. The difficult part is to determine what the funding requirement is in order to provide the income you’ll need to cover your living expenses – for as much as forty years or more! There is a rule of thumb (more on this later) that you can use to come up with a rough guess – but without using sophisticated computer modeling and analysis, your level of assuredness is limited. According to a recent survey by […]

Mandatory Retirement Plans

A few weeks ago I finished a paper arguing for mandatory retirement contributions from both employers and employees. Though arguably the paper will not come close to changing public policy on retirement plans, it did raise some arguments in favor of the United States adopting a mandatory savings plan. In the paper I explained that research has shown that individuals risk not having enough saved for retirement. This could be due to employees not having a retirement plan through work or because employees face an abundance of mutual fund options in the plan that they don’t know where to begin. Some of these employees choose the default option or simply go with what a colleague recommends. Another problem the paper addresses is the declination of defined benefit pensions. Such pensions are employer sponsored and funded, thus removing funding an investment risk from the employee. At retirement the employee receives a […]

Analyze your assets to avoid missing the mark

When we talk about financial fitness, one of the measures that is most important to the conversation is the value of our assets. There are really five different kinds of assets that we should consider: Personal Assets. Clothing, furnishings, and jewelry fit into this category. Most of this “stuff” decreases in value to less than half what we paid for it before we even get it home. Household Assets. This includes real estate, cars, and appliances. Most of these items either appreciate in value over time or provide a fair value over their life (in relation to renting the service). The total value of these assets must be reduced by any loans that we have against them – such as mortgages and auto loans. This will produce a net value of Household Assets. Employment Assets. Some employers still provide for a pension for their employees’ retirement. This pension has a […]

Should You Delay Retirement?

The question of delaying retirement may arise as you get closer to your “goal year” of when you want to retire. For some individuals’ fortunate enough to be covered under a company or state pension, it can be tempting to retire as soon as possible and collect the pension benefit. The same may be true for folks wanting to start taking Social Security at age 62. Before making the decision to retire or retire early an individual should consider the effects on delaying retirement and continuing to work. This is assuming that they can accrue extra pension benefits for the extra years of service. For Social Security, this would be delaying past an individual’s normal retirement age as long as to age 70. For example, let’s say an individual has the opportunity to be eligible to retire at age 55 and receive a pension of $5,500 per month. However, if […]

The Most Important Factor in Retirement Saving

We’ve all been there: making decisions about the ol’ retirement savings account. It doesn’t matter if it is a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA, a 401(k), or a deferred comp plan, there are many different decisions that you need to make. It can be overwhelming, until you step back and realize that there are actually only three primary decisions to make about retirement savings: How much to contribute How to allocate between asset classes (stocks and bonds; as well as within the sub-classes like large-cap, mid-cap & small-cap stocks; corporate bonds, government bonds, etc.) Which funds/investments to choose

Are YOU ready for retirement?

In this time of disappearing pensions, corporate downsizing, and high unemployment it becomes a great concern that many folks are still not saving enough for retirement. This may be due to a failure to realistically assess future costs or because we’re spending too much without saving – which is a hallmark of the baby-boom generation. Granted, there are plenty of good reasons why spending is out of control – with healthcare costs increasing all the time, for example. But I suspect that much more of the blame for our low savings balances is due to poor savings habits in the first place.

Wants and Needs

Sometimes when we need more money for a specific goal in the future such as retirement, college, a down payment on a home or an emergency fund we may feel that before these things can happen we need to make more money. We may feel that once our incomes are up to a certain level that we’ll be able to afford to save for those goals. It may not be necessary to earn more in order to achieve the above goals. For many folks the solution is simply to prioritize between wants and needs. In other words, learning to distinguish between the wants and the needs in your life and then reallocating your money to fund retirement or college goals without having to ask for a raise or get a second job.

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